MAGIC, according to the great conjurers, is really pretty simple. You get the audience to gape in one direction while you pull off your illusion in the other. ''Look over there, look over there'' - and presto, you've made a bikini-clad woman plain disappear.
One of the greatest modern moments of the magician's craft was when a fellow calling himself David Copperfield managed to get the Statue of Liberty in New York harbour to vanish.
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But even the cunning Copperfield could hardly compete with the Australian government. It's about to delete a whole nation, a giant island continent. A place called Australia.
While the parliamentary cockatoos have been squawking about an Indian Ocean apparently filled with boats fighting for floating space on their voyages to Christmas Island - ''look over there, look over there, unwanted boats ahoy!'' - the government has been fiddling quietly with the most audacious illusion in the history of legislation.
A click of the fingers, an army of Kafkaesque bureaucrats, and an expert panel scribbling abracadabra and, yep, the entire Australian mainland is to be excised from its own migration zone.
Not even the Houdini of Australian politics, the Lazarus with a triple bypass, John Howard himself, could manage such sorcery. He tried, mind. He excised Christmas Island, the Cocos Islands, Ashmore Reef and and the nearby Cartier Island from Australia's migration zone.
But when he tried to go the whole continental prestidigitation act, his audience - including moderates from his own side, and even Barnaby Joyce - couldn't allow credulity to be stretched so far.
Labor's Chris Bowen was appalled when Howard proposed it in 2006. ''This is a bad bill with no redeeming features,'' he lectured. ''It is a hypocritical and illogical bill. If it is passed today, it will be a stain on our national character.''
That, of course, was then. Mr Bowen is now Immigration Minister, content from the government benches, apparently, to stain the national character with sleight of hand.
Tony Abbott's Coalition can't make up its mind whether to go along with the trickery. Being heirs to John Howard's ''we will decide who comes to this country'', the opposition would be relatively hypocrisy-free if it chose to support Labor, though that would be Copperfield-standard magic.
A migration zone, you understand, is that area of a country that requires foreigners to hold a visa if they are to enter legally. If you don't have such a document, you may apply for it.
But if you are to excise a country from its own migration zone, a visa-less soul can't apply for one anywhere. The country, effectively, has been removed. Excised, erased, eradicated, expurgated.
But where will it have gone? To Nauru and Manus Island, you'd have to assume. Look over there, look over there! Blink and you've missed it.